University Museums

Title: Ibis
Name: Figurine and Stand
Date: 800 BC
Medium: Wood, bronze,gesso, and remains of gilding
Country/Culture: Egyptian
Dimensions: A: 4 × 5 1/8 × 2 1/2 in. (10.2 × 13 × 6.4 cm) B: 1 1/4 × 6 × 2 in. (3.2 × 15.2 × 5.1 cm)
Classification: Sculpture
Credit Line: Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: 5.1.2ab
More Information
Found in the tropics, the ibis is related to the heron with long legs and a slender, curved bill. Sacred to ancient Egyptian culture, the ibis bore the dead on its wings across the Nile to the afterlife's "field of plenty" in Egyptian mythology.

The ibis is a wading bird that lives along the Nile River banks, feeding on grain fields and marshes. The ibis escapes the river's dangers, the crocodiles, snakes, and floods, by flying to safety. Egyptians observed the ibis in this habitat, and symbolically incorporated its attributes into Egyptian mythology. The ibis represented safe crossing of and nourishment from the Nile in the afterlife. By incorporating the ibis' attributes and environment into religious rites, humans organized the natural and human world into one.